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The Better Me Project—Day 4

The main purpose of this project (at least for me) is to be an all around “better” me, in my home life, in my work life, in my writing life. I want to be successful in many aspects of my world, but there are a lot of fears holding me back from who I want to be. These fears escalate into big a$$ roadblocks because I let them get in the way of my goals and my ambitions.

When I wrote down my tasks for the next month for this project, I realized that quite a few were going to make me examine my biggest fear and face it head-on before I could even really start. because I immediately thought “what will other people think of me for doing this?”.

This question has always echoed through my head for years. If I don’t have a spotless house, what will people say about me? If I decide to stop yo-yo dieting and I get fat, what will people think about me? If I write that book and it’s bad, what will people think of me? If I ask that person I’d really like to be friends with to hang out, what if they laugh? If I take time for myself, will people say I’m a bad mother? Or worse, if I actually write about my mistakes, will people criticize me? If I take a stand for something I truly believe in instead of going along with what every one else is doing, what will people think of me? What if nobody likes me then? How can I get what I want if I’m all alone?

My choices have been less about what I want and more about how I think others will react to my choices. So basically I, like a million other people, have conformed to what I think others expect of me. I’ve held back on things because I’m worried about other people’s opinions.

And guess what? This is terrible thinking. Yeah sure, it sounds a little self-centered, but unless you’re being an obnoxious twit, who cares what other people think??? 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my writing career is that people are going to have an opinion of whatever you do. Some opinions will please you and others will upset you or anger you.

Let me give you an example. Believe it or not, people write reviews for books that they don’t like. Not that I have never written a review for a book I don’t like, but I stick to the reason that I did not like the book. I feel that helps people make a choice when they read a review. Oh Heather didn’t like the fact the guy was into S&M? Oh, but I like that so I’ll give that book a try.

Not all reviewers voice their OPINION in this manner, however. In fact, some don’t even realize that theirs is an opinion and treat theirs like facts. Sometimes they write unnecessary things in their reviews like spoilers and how the covers are terrible. They trash authors they don’t even know personally. They write reviews for books that they don’t even finish.

Okay, Heather, what’s your point? My point is this: it took me a long time to understand this, but what those people do and say are a reflection of them, NOT the me. My opinion of the books I don’t like is a reflection of ME and my likes, dislikes, hang-ups, etc. Do you see? Different strokes for different folks.

So back to the issue at hand. People are going to come into any situation with their own opinions, ones I can’t change. Me conforming to their opinions to avoid some imagined rejection is ridiculous. I become a different person from the one I really am and the result is an unhappy me.

I was really worried when I first started this project that if I changed too much about myself, the people that liked me already, wouldn’t like me any more. Yes, I realize that makes me sound like an 12 year old girl, but deep down, aren’t we all 12 year olds? Aren’t we all seeking the approval of others?

And why? Does it make us happier to squash down who we are to please other people? If all our friends like a band and we hate them, why do we lie and say we like the band??? Are we really afraid people will not like us based on something that superficial? What grade are we in?

If I were to make my choices based on what I wanted (or needed) to do rather than what people might think, I would not always make the same choices. The same thing goes for this mentality that I have—what should I do? And what should I do based solely on what other people would do or what I feel compelled to do, regardless of whether it’s what I want or need to do.

In order to be a better me, I need to stop that thinking. I know this advice may sound obvious to you, but it’s been a difficult thing for me to shake. Caring about other people’s opinion wasn’t always a problem of mine.

Once upon a time, when I was 5 or 6 or even 10, I was unapologetically ME. If wanted to sing, I sang. If I wanted to dance, I danced. If I wanted to write, I wrote. I didn’t get hung up on trends. My friends were my friends and whoever wasn’t, just wasn’t. I didn’t realize I was different. 

The “giving a crap” about what others thought dates back to 12 year old me. When I was that age, I was stuck with these clunky hearing aids that made people gawk and ask embarrassing questions (kids are so clueless about other people’s feelings, aren’t they?). I was so worried about what everyone was thinking that I decided not to wear them. Yeah, brilliant solution, right?

Now not only was I worried about what they thought of me, I couldn’t even hear what they thought of me, causing me to be a paranoid teenager. I thought everyone was talking about me, making fun of me—so I retreated into a shell, half the person I wanted to be.

I didn’t take risks, like trying out for plays or entering writing contests like I wanted to because I wanted to be as anonymous as possible. I didn’t want people to think I was weird or strange or different. I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to have an opinion of me at all. I didn’t want to face the sting of rejection. Hence, the fear of being ME was born.

Well, guess what I’ve learned in the last 30 years? We’re all different. That’s what makes us…us. Who gives a crap what someone—someone who doesn’t even really know us or like us—thinks of us? What YOU think of YOU is the most important thing.

We should all start thinking better of ourselves. We should all go back to the 7 year old versions of ourselves (let’s not pee the bed, though).

But then again, you shouldn’t care what think. Start thinking about what YOU think, what YOU want out of life and don’t look for the approval of anyone else.

*As a caveat, I’d like to remind you of what I said about not being an obnoxious twit. By “not giving a crap” I don’t mean that you should be mean, hurt other people, or ignore laws, rules, or decorum in general.

For example, if you’re thinking, I want to go to the gym and work out naked, who cares what other people think…I think you need to reevaluate what I’m trying to say here. On the other hand, if you want to go to the beach and wear a bikini, have a blast.

Also, some opinions do actually matter. Like if you want to quit your job and sell bottle cap art on the side of the road, but you have a mortgage and a spouse, you might want to run it by them first.

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